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Improv Notes: September 2013


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IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment
   September 2013

Photo Recap: Guelph Jazz Festival Continues to Inspire at 20

Photos by Paul Watkins

Headliner Pharoah Sanders

The 20th Anniversary of the Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium was another resounding success. Over the last twenty years the Festival has burgeoned from what Artistic Director Ajay Heble describes as “very modest origins into a vital social-purpose enterprise.” It has become an inclusive meeting place where enthusiasts of creative, innovative jazz and improvised music gather once a year to be inspired, engaged, even healed, while participating in one of the planet’s most diverse listening communities. The festival is a reminder of how you can create something from little more than a good idea and a love for the music. This year’s festival and colloquium was no exception, boasting sold out shows, packed colloquium talks, world premieres, enchanting Nuit Blanche performances, and a constellation of musical styles, with musicians and listeners in dialogue with the music in the space of the now.
In honour of the 20th Anniversary, the festival was extended by an extra day to launch a new-partnered research institute, the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. The launch of the institute culminated in a symphony of drums with the World Percussion Summit. The improvising percussion quartet featured master drummers Jesse Stewart (Ontario), Hamid Drake (USA), Dong-Won Kim (South Korea), and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee (India).

Dong-Won Kim.

Pandit Anindo Chatterjee.

Jesse Stewart and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee.

Jeff Schlanger, musicWitness-in-Residence, captures it all.

As usual, the Colloquium (co-presented between ICASP and the Guelph Jazz Festival) was top-notch and remains one of the few events in North America to combine scholarly activity with a music festival. The talks and music performances at the Colloquium were full of academic fervor while remaining generally accessible to the larger Guelph community with a stimulating mix of panels, keynote addresses, assorted workshops, and concerts and interviews that featured festival artists.

George Lipsitz keynote.

William Parker keynote.

Wadada and Pharoah after their interview.

The Colloquium was held at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, which was adorned with the jazz photography of Thomas King. King is a master storyteller who also possesses an incredible ability to tell the story of the Guelph Jazz Festival through the chronicle of his photography. King also collaborated with Guelph visual artist Nick Craine to create this year’s festival poster and logo.

The 20th Anniversary was full of amazing performances, which included Toronto based jazz upstarts BadBadNotGood, Matt Brubeck, Atomic, free shows by DRUMHAND, Jane Bunnett, Friendly Rich’s Scheherazade, Marianne Trudel, as well as the amazing double bill featuring Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet alongside Pharoah Sanders and The Underground. The festival continues to affirm that there is something special happening in Guelph. There is much more that could be said about the music, but we’ll leave that for critics. After all, in jazz there is no final chord. We can only dream what the next 20 years of the festival will manifest. For now, here are some additional pictures from this year’s anniversary celebration.

Trudel/ Parker/ Drake.

Esmerine with guests.

Friendly Rich's Scheherazade.

Pharoah and The Underground.

Market Square was packed!

Nuit Blanche performance by Ben Grossman and Matt Brubeck at 4:30 am at Silence.

Jesse Stewart and the Penderecki String Quartet close the festival.

Quote of the Month:

“We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other, none of us would have survived, and now you must survive because we love you and for the sake of your children and your children’s children.”
-James Baldwin in a
1962 letter to his nephew.


James Arthur Baldwin (1924-1987) was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and outspoken critic of the palpable yet unspoken realities of racial, class, and sexual distinctions in Western societies, particularly in mid-20th-century America. Baldwin’s emotive words, in the above quotation, emphasize the power of love to hold familial ties together despite the long lasting and damaging effects of the legacy of slavery in the diaspora. As a novelist, Baldwin is most known for his first published, Go Tell it to the Mountain (1953).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Check out the Silence event page for the latest in innovative music in Guelph.


The international Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project explores musical improvisation as a model for social change. The project plays a leading role in defining a new field of interdisciplinary research to shape political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action.

As a form of musical practice, improvisation embodies real-time creative decision-making, risk-taking, and collaboration. Improvisation must be considered not simply as a musical form, but as a complex social phenomenon that mediates transcultural inter-artistic exchanges that produce new conceptions of identity, community, history, and the body. This project focuses primarily on jazz and creative improvised music. The dominant theoretical issues emerging from this music have vital social implications.

Check out our diverse research collection.

Improv Notes was initially distributed in 2008 as a quarterly newsletter. Since June 2011 the revamped Improv Notes has been assembled, written, and distributed on a monthly basis by ICASP's Media and Public Relations Coordinator, Paul Watkins. If you have anything improvisation related that you would like to have included in the newsletter, please send an email to Paul at:

Want to read past newsetters, or refer a friend to the monthly newsletter, then please do!

Check us out on Twitter 

Featured Artist:
Dawn of Midi

All Photos of Dawn of Midi by Paul Watkins.
Dawn of Midi (US/ Morocco)

Dawn of Midi is an instrumental trio from Brooklyn comprised of pianist Amino Belyamani, bassist Aakaash Israni, and percussionist Qasim Naqvi. They make minimalist dance music that sounds as if their instruments are run through a digital midi interface. In actuality, all that is being played and heard is acoustic piano, drums, and standup bass. Dawn of Midi continue to craft their unique sound, building upon their semi-improvised and critically acclaimed debut (and aptly titled) First (2010). Their second effort as a group, Dysnomia (2013) is tirelessly composed, replete with polyrhythmic and locked
 grooves, and garnered praise from music critics from the New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Radiolab, among others. Rightly so, as Dawn of Midi’s performance at this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival did not disappoint. The trio has a way of replicating a single beat or note, as their festival performance covered Dysnomia in real-time (front to back), with each musician in tandem, hardly slipping out of a single polyrhythmic groove. While the concert wasn’t improvised in the typical sense, it was quite apparent that a slew of improvisation sessions are what lead to their disciplined, well-oiled super-trio generating a dizzying array of textures that blend and bend together in the immersive listening experience of Dysnomia. As Sun Ra reminds us, “there is discipline in freedom, and freedom in discipline.”


Belyamani echoes Ra when he describes that “Playing a locked groove like we do on this record involves a lot of discipline and hard work […] You don’t start out that way unless you’re a group of folk musicians from the same village” (group website). Watching Dawn of Midi live it was apparent how measured and cadenced their playing was, which provided a great counterpoint to Marianne Trudel, William Parker, and Hamid Drake, who followed Dawn of Midi as the second part of double bill with an abundantly improvised set. It was almost as if time stood still for the 45 minutes or so that Dawn of Midi played, as one rhythmic phrase blended into the border of another one until the rhythm gradually changed like an autochthonous machine moving seamlessly between different musical episodes. Dawn of Midi’s composition occupies a space of paradox as their sound puts electronic and acoustic music into productive dialogue, reminding us that all instruments are tools to express human emotion and convey a concept.
That concept for Dawn of Midi might be as lucid as blending sonic possibility within the aesthetics of format. A format found in the emotive potential for creating locked grooves that emulate computer music, and yet which sound incredibly human—meditative even. Dawn of Midi are masters of their instruments: they were able to achieve complex sonic patterns with as little as a single note. I watched in awe, as pianist Belyamani played a few notes on the piano with his right hand and then damped them with his free hand inside the piano to create muted harmonics that were at times resonant of a drum. The rapport between the three members made for an incredible set of music, seamlessly blending tracks like a DJ would with a gentle touch on the crossfader. The music circles back and we are left with a dawn of possibilities.

The new album Dysnomia, I assume, is named after the recent discovery of Dysnomia (2005), the only known moon of the dwarf planet Eris, which is the largest dwarf planet in our solar system. The word comes from the Greek word meaning “lawlessness.” Dawn of Midi continues to defy expectations and break the laws of how electronic, jazz, or improvised music is often marketed. We can only anticipate what other mixes, sonic discoveries, and dawnings Dawn of Midi has in store for us in the future. 

Check out a clip from their latest work, Dysnomia.

The entire album can be streamed or purchased digitally here.

Musagetes Guelph Café - September 25-28, 2013

Performances / Workshops / Live Music / Discussions / Debates

All events are free! Find the full program of events here.

With performances, workshops, live music, discussions, hands-on publishing, outdoor interventions, debates, and a neighbourhood audio zine, the Café will focus on co-creating, bridge-building across communities, and recognizing alternative social spaces. Here is what we’ll be talking and thinking about:

How do we approach the arts differently here? Where is culture headed and who is taking it there? How do we build strong communities with art? What are the creative possibilities of social spaces outside home and work?

Of the many things that create a rich, critical, and vibrant arts scene, which contributes more, grassroots initiatives or big institutions? What can we learn from music? Is the art and culture we have in Guelph central and meaningful to people’s lives?

Space is limited for select events so reserve your spot for a breakfast hike with DodoLab, our vinyl listening brunch, a music tour of Guelph neighbourhoods and our final BBQ, concert and celebration here.

The Café is presented by Musagetes in collaboration with Boarding House Arts, Ed Video, the Gosling Foundation, the Guelph Black Heritage Society, Improvisation, Community and Social Practice, Kazoo!, Publication Studio Guelph, the School of Fine Art and Music, Silence Guelph.

Download a pdf of the event info hereSee more info here.

Musagetes is an international organization that aims make the arts more central and meaningful reality in people’s lives, in our communities and societies.

Call For Papers: Sound Changes: Improvisation, Social Practice, and Cultural Difference
As part of Duke University Press's Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice Series, two volumes of which have already been published, this volume proposes an enhanced, interdisciplinary understanding of improvisation as a multivalent, global social practice found within and across different cultural and historical contexts, different national sites and traditions. Books in this new series generally posit musical improvisation as a crucial model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action—for imagining and creating alternative ways of knowing and being known in the world. The books are collaborations among performers, scholars, and activists from a wide range of disciplines. They study the creative risk-taking imbued with the sense of movement and momentum that makes improvisation an exciting, unpredictable, ubiquitous, and necessary endeavor. But are these assumptions necessarily true in the more global contexts in which improvisation is present? Does improvisation necessarily mean the same thing in and across different national sites where the social utility (or not) of improvisation is subject to vastly different contingencies, contexts, and historical circumstances? What kinds of theoretical and case study analyses are required in order to broaden improvisation studies beyond North American and European sites delimited (largely) by specific forms like free jazz, spontaneous composition, and experimental music?

With these questions in mind, a key precept underlying this book is that “improvisation” risks becoming a master trope that erases the multiple differential practices to which it generally refers. We intend for this collection to examine the astonishing diversity of practices that improvisation entails in ways that challenge monological notions of improvisation as a global practice that means the same thing in all circumstances. In that light, the volume explores “sound changes” as the word “changes” oscillates between its function as verb and as noun. The phrase “sound changes” thus references both the differential contexts in which improvisatory sound occurs (and how those change a sound’s meaning) and the ways in which sound itself is productive of changes that have an impact on wider spheres of human being.

The editors seek proposals for essays that address a wide range (geographically and culturally) of performance contexts in which improvisation is present as well as a diversity of critical traditions that have been, or should be, brought to bear on improvisatory practices. We are interested in work about music and sound, but also work that examines related improvisational forms such as dance, theater, intermedial performance practices, community organization and activism, transcultural encounters, and so on

We are open to work that focuses on other questions as well and authors interested in pursuing other related lines of inquiry and research should contact us directly. To submit a chapter proposal for this edited collection please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to Daniel Fischlin and Eric PorterIf selected, chapters should be approximately 6000-10,000 words in length. The deadline for abstract submission is October 15, 2013.

To download a copy of this Call For Papers in PDF form, please click here.

TACET- Call for Papers

This next issue of TACET seeks to address these different points from an interdisciplinary perspective and to bring together an ensemble of studies (cross-disciplinary, general or focusing on the analysis of specific cases), examining sound space through the multiple problems which represent it and seek to define it. Among these focal points are: the strategies at work in contextual practices, the sound dimension of architecture, the stage space and scenography of sound art exhibitions, art in situ and site-engaged practices, listening spaces and the sound perception of space, the use of sound in institutional critique, sound installations in the public space and the history of spatialization.

For the full call for papers, click here.

Articles should be sent by email to by 15 October 2013.

An abstract, a few key words and a brief biography of the author should be attached to the article. We ask authors to follow the instructions (article format, bibliographic standards - see our file instructions for authors ). This will facilitate the editorial process and therefore speed up the time it takes to reply.

Thinking Spaces, the Guelph ICASP Reading Group returns Sept 27.

We'll kick-off this year's events with a visit from vocal improviser, composer, & sound poet, Tomomi Adachi (see below for more information). This opening event will happen at an irregular time & place: 10 Carden
(, 8-10pm. We will follow this kick-off event with our first regular meeting, Friday Oct 11, 3-5. At that meeting we'll discuss our ideas for themes and guests for the year and how best to accommodate everyone's schedules and research interests. If you can't be there because Friday 3-5 doesn't work for you, please send us a message ( or in advance of the meeting with suggestions for other days and times that might work better. 

Self-Made Instruments and Telepathy in Improvisation: A Public Talk and Discussion with Tomomi Adachi.

Tomomi Adachi will discuss his own work as an improviser with a focus on his own approach to self-made instruments and on his newest project PUTIF (People's United Telepathic Improvisation Front), a collaboration with Jennifer Walshe. In PUTIF, Walshe and Adachi improvise together at a specified time in two separate locations, listening to one another at distances beyond the reach of the human ear. These improvisations are recorded and later combined and compared. They also encourage others to listen telepathically to their improvisation and send in descriptions of what they hear. Tomomi will discuss how telepathy is working as a conceptual framework for musical improvisation. The project compels us to consider how others can be present in their absence, how improvisations can be a tool for being together despite physical distance, and questions the advantages of telematic technology in an age where it is becoming increasingly common.  

If you'd like to prepare for the discussion, you can view one telepathic listener's response here.

and/or, you can learn more about Tomomi's self-made instruments here.

and/or, you can browse his ample documentation of his diverse projects here.


Musical improvisation is a crucial model for political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action.

– Ajay Heble